|Title-page device by E.F. Powell|
The title itself was enough to make me want to read this slim book: The Romance of the Echoing Wood, published in a limited edition of 220 copies in 1937. The story is by-lined W.J.T. Collins. The book includes illustrations and decorations by E.F. Powell, an epilogue by William Henry Davies, and the feature that first drew my attention--an introduction by Arthur Machen. It is billed as an "All-Monmouthshire Volume" because all the contributors have associations with Monmouthshire.
The Machen introduction is typical. Machen begins by recalling something he read "the other day" and goes on pleasant verbal ramble for six pages about Romance and Reality. Only once does he lightly mention the work he is introducing. The epilogue is similar, but only two and a half pages long.
The story itself is in three short parts, one covering the survival of Illtyd against a band of Viking warriors, and the introduction of a beautiful young girl Ceinwen. Part two is set years later when a visiting minstrel recognizes Ceinwen as a lost princess. The final part brings another threat to Ceinwen, after which Illtyd and Ceinwen profess their love for one another.
The tale gave me the feel of a children's Mabinogion, so I was not surprised to find listed among the author's books a small volume of Tales from the New Mabinogion (1923), another slim volume of four tales which are basically juvenile-styled Mabinogion stories. The author was William John Townsend Collins (1868-1954), who published some volumes of poetry, two anthologies on Monmouthshire Writers, and an intriguingly Machen-esque title, A History of the Silurian Lodge, no. 471 in the Register of United Grand Lodges of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of England, Holden at Newport, Mon. (1941).